Thank farmers for keeping food on our tables

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Dr. Kenny Burdine, UK extension specialist in agriculture economics, forwarded information about the recent cattle losses due to the blizzard in South Dakota, eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska. Most of the cattle losses occurred in South Dakota. According to a report he sent from Drovers Cattle Network, Dr. Dustin Oedekoven, the South Dakota state veterinarian, has reported that a total of 13,977 cattle died as a result of the blizzard in that state. This is a lower number than originally reported but still significant for those farm and ranch families that depend on cattle for a living. Dr. Oedekkoven’s findings were that most of the cattle died from congestive heart failure brought on by stress. Cows in the cold weather likely got hypothermic, forcing their cardiovascular systems to work overtime. Oedekoven says the cows then suffered from hypertension, or high blood pressure in their lungs. Most of the cattle died on dry land. However, some wandered in the snow and ended up in waterways or stock dams. Others were buried in snow banks.
The number of cattle killed in this storm is small compared to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s estimate of 29.3 million beef cows nationwide and 1.6 million in South Dakota so there should be little or no effect on beef prices as a result of the storm.
Farmers and ranchers take huge risks dealing with nature to produce food for our tables. Sometimes disaster comes slowly over a period of months like last year’s drought, or quickly like a blizzard or flood. Please keep farmers who have suffered from the unpredictability of nature, especially those who have had their lives changed as a result of this storm, in your thoughts and prayers, and as we get closer to Thanksgiving, thank the farmers you know for the work they do to keep food on our tables.
On a positive note, sometimes everything comes together and farmers enjoy the benefit of good weather conditions. This has been one of those years for farmers raising corn. I have heard reports from around the county and across the state of corn yielding over 200 bushels per acre. I have measured yields of well over 250 bushels per acre. For comparison, the average yields for Marion County historically have been 110 to 120 bushels per acre. Yields have been improving regularly due to new crop technology, but this year’s crop has exceeded all expectations. Across the country yields have been good and farmers planted the most acres of corn in many years, resulting in what will likely be an all-time record corn crop. This is timely as stockpiles of corn were very low after last year’s drought across the country.
Soybeans did well if they were planted early, but the late wheat harvest this year caused double crop yields to suffer. I have heard yields of 90 bushels per acre on the good side, but also 15 bushels on the low side. Many late planted crops were limited by frost in October. Nationwide the soybean crop will rank as a good one but not as spectacular as the corn crop.
The down side of the good corn crop is prices have tumbled. Last year at this time prices were in the range of seven to eight dollars per bushel, but this year they are four dollars or less. The good yields will be tempered by the low prices, but forward looking farmers who hedged prices or forward marketed their crop before the growing season will do very well.
Cattle hog and poultry producers will benefit from the lower grain prices as it will cost significantly less to purchase feed for their livestock. The lower cost of feeding cattle in feedlots has created increased demand for feeder cattle. As a result, the price for feeder cattle has increased by about twenty cents per pound since last spring, which will benefit our local cattle farmers. Poultry is now the top product produced by Kentucky farmers and they will see significant feed cost reductions that may result in higher production and lower prices at the wholesale level.
On average farmers only receive about seventeen percent of the retail value of food, so overall prices at the grocery store will not change as much as the reduction in farm level prices would indicate. Much of the cost of food at the retail level is processing, distribution and marketing cost.
A reminder to all who qualified for the County Agriculture Improvement Program that all receipts are due by this Friday, Nov. 15. Earlier this week we tried to contact all participants that have not turned in receipts, as well as those who need to meet the education or Beef Quality Assurance requirements of the program. If you have not submitted receipts or you need education or BQA certification, contact the office and we will make certain you get what you need to comply with the program rules. All funds not properly claimed will be released to be awarded to the next highest qualifiers from applications received last summer. There will be no exceptions.
The Marion County Cattlemen’s Association will hold its monthly meeting on Thursday, Nov. 14 at 6:30 p.m. at Floral Hall. This will be the association’s annual meeting with election of officers and directors as well as delegates to the state convention in January.
The County Extension Council will meet Tuesday, Nov. 19, at 6 p.m. at the Marion County Extension Office. The council is responsible for oversight of extension programming and making certain we meet the needs of the residents of Marion County. We are always looking for new ideas so if you would like to participate on the council please contact us at the office.
Members of the Farmers Market will meet Wednesday, Nov. 20, at noon at the extension office to review last summer’s activities. Please have available your sales results from this year so we can report performance to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Lunch will be provided so call the extension office if you plan to attend. If you cannot attend, please call Terry Williams and report your sales volume for the year.
The next “Master Marketer” class for cattle producers who enrolled which was scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 26, has been postponed because of scheduling conflicts during the Thanksgiving week. The meeting will be rescheduled at a later date.
The extension office will be closed Thursday and Friday, Nov. 28-29 for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Educational programs of Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.